This section is from the "Economics In Two Volumes: Volume I. Economic Principles" book, by Frank A. Fetter. Also available from Amazon: Economic
§ 3. Psychic income gained in play. When we consider the fact that this income may be directly in psychic form, it becomes difficult to justify on economic grounds the contrast usually supposed to exist between labor and play. Play-that seems to our modern commercial minds the very negation of economics. Work, work, to fill the granaries fuller, to build larger houses, to produce more material goods, to increase the bank accounts! But is not such a view mere miserliness in disguise ? The aim of all human effort, whether work or play, is psychic income. The life of man is a constant adjustment of his own desires and capacities to the outer world, partly by changing objects in creating wealth, partly by changing himself through the use of wealth and of his own faculties. Normal and healthy human beings find a keen pleasure in the putting forth of those powers that develop and preserve strength, activity, and health. This is the purpose of most of the sports, games, and pastimes found in every land and time. In the mere putting forth of the powers of mind and muscle there is a joy felt by children and men of all races, and this is heightened by companionship, emulation, and even by a spice of danger. We may call labor any human effort having as its motive something outside of the gratification in the action itself. Actions which have no objective aim, no purpose (except of course making the points of the game, e.g., crossing the goal) outside the pleasure of the mere doing, are play. Play is not dependent on a useful objective result later to be enjoyed, but, like beauty, is its own excuse for being. The distinction, therefore, between work and play is one as to the superficial form of expressing human energy, rather than as to the fundamental economic result as it has usually been considered. The nerve-tired student goes out-of-doors to bat the tennis ball, making no change in the material world, except to wear out his shoes and to lose the ball, but finding that hour rich in the joy of life. When the patient fisherman sitting in his boat, was asked, "What luck?" he answered cheerily, as he threw out another line, " Just the luck of a good time."
If properly chosen, play strengthens and vivifies both soul and body, leaving an afterglow of health and happiness. Such play is directly resultant in psychic income, necessarily involves a personal valuation, and if taken with due regard to present duties and to future needs (aye, there 's the rub!) is worthy of a place in the scale of the socially productive. The choice of sports and temperance in their pursuit are among the surest tests of wisdom in men and in societies. Not to know how to play, and how to live joyously in the hours free from business cares, is just as surely a cause of real poverty as not to know how to work. For real poverty is lack of psychic income. Some persons can work effectively, others can play effectively (which does not always mean great expertness). A rich life, truly successful, is possible only to those who can combine the abilities both to work and to play. A love of vigorous play no less than the power of sustained work, marks the dominant and progressive peoples of the earth.
§ 4. Play- and labor-motives mingled. Actions of a second kind are those pleasurable in themselves and at the same time leaving an objective result. The hunter enjoys the day better if he returns with well-filled bags of game. In extreme cases the distinction between the sportsman and the "pot-hunter" is not hard to find. It is a matter of emphasis; the one has his chief joy in the sport, the other in the material results of the sport. But always the motives are somewhat mingled. The study of primitive peoples shows that all of the more important industrial activities were first of the nature of play. The primitive man did only the things he liked to do, unless driven by the direst want. The whole tribe danced and sang, went through intricate dramatic ceremonials before going upon a hunt or planting corn, made a tournament of the hunt itself, and even of hoeing and reaping the crops, and concluded with festivals in celebration of the successful hunt and of the bountiful harvest, to the delight of every member of the tribe. Thus were men gradually habituated to actions having an object outside and beyond themselves.
§ 5. Disagreeable labor. Actions of a third kind are those disagreeable in themselves, but performed by force of will, because leading to some desired result. A large part of what is called labor to-day is of this kind, either like taking medicine - positively disagreeable but endured for the hope of ulterior benefits - or in the milder cases only relatively undesirable, being not what one would most prefer to do at the time. The end sought is an objective good resulting from the labor.
The social ideal clearly is that all labor should be made desirable. Social dreamers love to picture a day when all shall find for effort a full reward in the mere doing - the reward of the artist, of the scholar, of the saint - in addition to the objective result in economic wealth. In some occupations possibly we are slowly nearing this ideal. Not only in the professions and in the esthetic arts, but in commerce, in mechanics, and in the humblest walks of life are found men free from envy, rejoicing in their daily tasks. Such is the normal feeling of the healthy optimist. And yet in every serious occupation there are numberless moments and occasions when the spirit flags and only hard necessity holds men to their tasks. The complicated and often long-continued tasks of modern industry can not be accomplished by mere play; neither can they by labor done only with immediate pleasure. The dilettante does not go far or long or steadily; the real tasks of the world are done by men that labor, now with joy, now wearily, but unfailingly. A large part of the heavy monotonous hand-labor is an evil just because it yields so little of the joy of workmanship and is so purely drudgery endured for the day's wage at the end.
§ 6. Physical differences among men. As material things differ in their uses and fitness to yield economic uses, so do men differ in their powers of labor. The most obvious difference is in physical strength, which varies with age, individual, race, and sex. Differences due to age are the most obvious. The child, at first weak, grows toward his maximum of physical strength, which he attains before his fullest intellectual capacity.2 The period of maximum physical working power lasts fifteen to twenty-five years according to the individual and to the kind of work, and then gradually declines as the old worker approaches again the inefficiency of the child. Families and strains of stock differ notably in physical powers; one excels in stature, another in development of muscle. The differences within families are inexplicable; sometimes one brother excelling in one thing, the other in another. The physically perfect man is a rare product. Among three thousand students are but twoscore endowed with the remarkable combination of lungs, heart, muscle, nerve, and character, that makes possible the finest athletes. The natural dexterity of some workers marvelously surpasses that of the average man, and seemingly is due not to special training, but to natural qualities of sight, touch, nervous reaction, or muscular energy. The national and racial differences in working power, even in the simplest tasks, are marked, but are difficult to explain, as so many influences, customs, habits of life, and varieties of diet modify the result. We can not tell how much of the Englishman's great superiority over the East Indiaman is due to individual native differences of mind and body, how much to the social environments in which they have lived. Certainly tho, the difference is not mainly one in size; in the Boxer War the little brown men of Japan outmarched all the others. Certainly fiber counts for more than bulk, and character for more than muscle.